Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great


Exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria – until 8th November 2015


Catherine’s Bad Girl Reputation 

Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia has had very bad press for over 300 years.

She was the most renowned and the longest-ruling female leader of Russia, reigning for 34 years until her death in 1796 at the age of 67.

But ask the average Russian what he knows about her and he will smirk and say Catherine was debauched and is mostly known for having countless lovers, usually from the ranks of her young army officers.

So why has the NGV decided to mount an exhibition dedicated to her?

Catherine: Art Collector Extraordinaire

Because in fact, Catherine was one of the most enlightened and powerful leaders of Europe in the 18th Century. Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great  showcases some of the works she sourced and commissioned to create one of the world’s greatest art collections in history. Catherine is said to have wanted to have the greatest expression of man’s genius all under one roof. So she constructed palaces to house her ever-growing collections. She called these pavilions the Hermitage, and so began her great legacy of what today is the renown Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

The NGV, in conjunction with the Hermitage, is now showing the largest collection of her treasures ever to be exhibited outside Russia. It includes Rembrandt, Rubens, Velazquez and Van Dyke.  This is the finest group of Dutch and Flemish art to come to Australia. Amongst the 400 masterpieces from her personal collection are paintings, sculptures, drawings, porcelain, silver and precious gems.

From Teenage Bride To Empress

A German-born princess, Catherine at the age of 14, was married to the heir to the Russian throne. After a coup in 1762 in which her husband Tsar Peter lll was murdered, Catherine took his place on the throne. She then proceeded to drag Russia from a cultural and political backwater to an imperial power. Ably assisted by Grigory Potemkin, who was both her lover and her political partner, she pushed back the Ottoman empire, established a Russian presence on the Black Sea and extended the Russian empire to Alaska.

Empress Catherine And The Enlightenment

Largely self-educated, she oversaw a period of cultural renaissance in Russia. She was an innovative thinker and dedicated to education, the arts and culture. She sought the advice of Diderot, the most powerful art critic of the time about which art works to amass. In a period of only 10 years, she siphoned into Russia 1,800 paintings and 40,000 written volumes – including the greatest European and Asian achievements in architecture, design, art and literature and transformed the imperial capital St.Petersburg, into an international centre of enlightenment.

Catherine corresponded for 15 years with Voltaire, one of France’s pre-eminent Enlightenment philosophers, about the ideas that were re-shaping Europe. Her ideals of abolishing serfdom and ensuring the equality of all citizens under the law were ahead of her time, but she was powerless to overcome the opposition of the nobility who were determined to keep their slaves. However, she achieved numerous other reforms, including the introduction of paper money and the modernisation of Russia’s education system.

There is an excellent biography ‘Catherine the Great and Potemkin: The Imperial Love Affair’  written by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Interestingly enough, Montefiore looked into the number of lovers Catherine was supposed to have had and he concluded that she probably had around 12 lovers – hardly the debauched monarch of legend.

For information about the exhibition go to

ACCA – The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

ACCA – the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art –  is Australia’s most significant contemporary art space and plays a pivotal role in developing contemporary art in Australia. It is the only major public gallery in Australia focused on commissioning rather than collecting, and has commissioned an unparalleled number of new works from emerging Australian contemporary artists.


The current NEW15 exhibition is part of the annual NEW series that provides young artists with the opportunity to create large-scale new works. NEW has been so successful that for some artists it has become the launching pad to local and even international recognition. Now in its 15th year, NEW is highly regarded and generates huge excitement in the local art world and annual pilgrimages to ACCA in Melbourne.


Venice Biennale 2015

In addition to NEW, through its exhibitions and commissions, ACCA promotes a range of talented Australian artists. Some of those who exhibited at ACCA have gone on to exhibit at the Venice Biennale, the world’s most prestigious art event. They include Callum Morton, Daniel von Sturmer, Susan Norrie, Patrician Piccinini, Ricky Swallow, Shaun Gladwell, Simryn Gill and now Fiona Hall. (See image slider above)

At Venice Biennale 2015, Fiona Hall’s installation, ‘Wrong Way Time’ will be the inaugural exhibition of the new Australian Pavilion.  Australia is the first nation to be granted permission to create a new building among the Biennale’s heritage-listed buildings. This is remarkably significant for Australian art and architecture as it is the first 21st century pavilion to be built in the historic Giardini.

This new $7.5million pavilion represents another link between ACCA and the Venice Biennale. John Denton, Director of Denton Corker Marshall, the Melbourne based architecture firm that designed the new pavilion, is also Chair of ACCA. The previous Chair of ACCA was Naomi Milgrom AO, businesswoman, philanthropist and distinguished patron of contemporary art and architecture.

The ACCA Building

The ACCA building itself has become a distinctive architectural icon of Melbourne.

It’s rust red steel exterior is reminiscent of the red earth in outback Australia, and like this earth, it too changes colours in response to the sun. Sometimes it is a brooding dark red, at other times a vibrant, rich burnt-orange colour. The building was designed by local architects, Wood Marsh, and completed in 2002. But ACCA’s history as Australia’s only ‘kunsthalle’  showcasing the latest and most significant artwork by living artists from around the world, goes back 30 years.

The ACCA building is located behind the National Gallery of Victoria in the arts precinct of Southbank, and in a sense was regarded as the  “new kid on the block”. The National Gallery had reigned over art in the state of Victoria for 152 years. But increasingly, ACCA became the place to see the newest and most exciting trends in contemporary art. This was in stark contrast to the NGV which largely turned its back on contemporary Australian art.  It was only last year, with the blockbuster exhibition, ‘Melbourne Now’, that the NGV finally flung open its doors to contemporary artists, many of whom had been welcome for some time at ACCA.

ACCA’s renowned Artistic Director and curator Juliana Engberg who has commissioned and overseen more than 120 of ACCA’s Australian and international exhibitions, is now leaving to join the roaming European Capital of Culture series.

ACCA Events

In addition to its exhibitions, ACCA also holds very popular events. There are drawing workshops, educational programs and lectures. Currently, there is a highly acclaimed lecture series called ‘The Grand Tour: Cities Shaped by Art’  that covers London, Venice, Berlin, Beijing and Amsterdam.

The ACCA courtyard is shared with the Malthouse Theatre and is a very attractive place to enjoy a coffee after viewing the exhibitions.





Wine, Vineyards and Kangaroos

Yabby Lake Vineyard, Mornington Peninsula

Rows of vines, draped in white netting, spread down the hill and across the valley. The sea shines in the distance. You sit on the deck overlooking the vineyard and enjoy an excellent meal. The wine you are drinking is produced from the vines below you, and it is some of the best wine in Australia. Suddenly six kangaroos come leaping past and hop between the vines down to the lake – Yabby Lake. ( Yabbies are small, freshwater crayfish)

The Trophies 

Yabby Lake Vineyard sprang into public prominence when it made history by winning the coveted Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for Best Red Wine of the 2011 and 2012 vintages. It was the first time in its 52 year history that the Jimmy Watson Trophy was awarded to a Pinot Noir –  a Yabby Lake Block 1 Pinot Noir 2012.

This remarkable achievement was followed by accolades and awards for the Block 2 Pinot Noir 2013, which to date has already collected 11 trophies.

The Founders

And yet the vineyard is only 17 years old. When Robert and Mem Kirby bought the land in Tuerong on the Mornington Peninsula, they were not winemakers, but wine collectors who always dreamed of planting a vineyard. The land had the perfect conditions for growing high quality chardonnay and pinot noir – ‘hungry soil’ and a north-facing slope capturing both maximum sunshine and cooling sea breezes from 3 directions – Port Philip Bay, Western Port Bay and Bass Strait. It is this maritime climate that has turned the Mornington Peninsula into such a successful wine growing region.



The Viticulturist

A viticulturist with 27 years of experience, Keith Harris has been at Yabby Lake right from the beginning, carrying out research, soil surveys and preparation to ensure that the right variety of vine clone was matched to the type of soil. Then season after season, he hand-nurtures each vine.  When asked how Yabby Lake managed to achieve distinction for its pinot noir in such a short period of time, he replied,  “ It’s rigour. To grow good pinot noir you need rigour. Rigour in the vineyard, rigour in the winery, and rigour with the bank manager. We’ve had all three. It’s a very expensive way of growing grapes.”

The Winemaker

Tom Carson, joined Yabby Lake as General Manager and Chief Winemaker in 2008. Prior to that he was at Yering Station for 12 years during which time the winery won international acclaim including ‘International Winemaker of the Year’ at the 2004 International Wine and Spirit Competition in London.

He believes that  “ wine is not a competition game. It’s a respect game. It’s respecting wines, where they come from and why they taste the way they do. We don’t think that we are making wines that are better than any other particular producer or place in the world. What we can say is that we are making wines from our site and we have a site that is capable of producing exceptionally good quality.”

The Cellar Door and Restaurant

The Cellar Door and Restaurant opened only 2 years ago but is already recognised for its quality wine and food. Acclaimed chef Heston Blumenthal brought his family for lunch and Melbourne fine dining restaurant Vue de Monde held a food and wine tasting there recently.

Chef Simon West uses local suppliers extensively and the menu, which changes daily, offers casual, but refined, sophisticated food. The paintings and the sculptures combine with the natural beauty of the place to make it a lovely way to spend an afternoon in a vineyard.

It’s only a 50-minute drive from Melbourne on the M11 but the contrast with the bustling traffic is immediate. The gates of Yabby Lake open onto a silent, peaceful vista of rolling hills covered in vines – vines protected by nets in this season. The drive to the winery and restaurant is through a long avenue of tall eucalyptus trees, which give a distinctly Australian aspect to the rows of vines on either side of the road. These tall trees look as if they have been here forever, but they were planted by Mem Kirby as small saplings.

Kangaroos Between the Vines

If you are lucky, you might spot a kangaroo between the vines. Kangaroos are not usually associated in our minds with vineyards, but  apparently wine and kangaroos cohabit very comfortably. They don’t often eat the grapes as they prefer the grass that grows between the vines.

The Winery

The significant new addition to Yabby Lake this year is the opening of the winery which was constructed not far from the Cellar Door.  Now tractors are able to deliver the freshly hand-picked grapes a short distance directly from the vineyard into the winery, rather than being pressed at a distant site.

WomanGoingPlaces was the first to film the pressing of the grapes in this new winery. The grapes are dropped into a huge, highly sophisticated de-stemmer that removes the stems from the grapes by gravity. The grapes are never pumped or handled in a way that can damage them. New technology for an ancient craft.

Australia does not have the benefit of centuries of winemaking, but we are not as new to it as you might think. In fact, when the first British ships were transporting convicts to this land, they also transported grape vines. The first pinot that we know of in Australia, is called MV6  (Mother Vine). It was brought  out in 1840 and was thought to originate in France. The grapes that are grown today in Yabby Lake are clones of this original Mother Vine.

The Wines

Yabby Lake Vineyard produces single vineyard wines under the Yabby Lake label and from an additional site under the Heathcote Estate label.

Yabby Lake’s range of wines includes pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, shiraz and sauvignon blanc. Their wines are exported to major wine markets overseas including to their 5 cellar doors in China.

The vineyard evokes an Australian childhood idyll – the  summer pastime of searching for yabbies in dams, creeks and lakes – for which it was named. The idyll is still present in the wide bucolic sweep of the place. But the Yabby Lake Vineyard, first under Robert and Mem Kirby and now in the hands of the second generation, Nina and Clark, has developed into an enterprise that is making its mark on Australian wine-making.


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Photographs & Video – Rosalie Zycher & Augustine Zycher

Music – Albare  CD  ‘The Road Ahead’  ‘Expectations’ track




Bathing Boxes Brighton Beach Melbourne

WomanGoingPlaces continues to receive such an enthusiastic response to our post on the Iconic Bathing Boxes of the Mornington Peninsula, that we are following up with another post on the bathing boxes  –  those on Brighton Beach. These 90 beach boxes are located in inner Melbourne, within sight of the central business district.



 Price of a bathing box?

What would you pay for what is essentially an empty wooden box, smaller than a boat shed, without running water or electricity?

Well, at the end of 2014, two auctions were held on the hot sand at Dendy St., Brighton Beach.  One newly built beach box, No.57A, was sold for $215,000 – that is $44,791 per square metre.

Minutes later, bidders trudged across the sand to another box, No.67, that is over 100 years old, and they eagerly pushed the sale price up to $190,000.

Why are bathing boxes so valuable and why are so many people charmed by them?

Each one unique

What is most obvious is their curious, colourful beauty. The 90 bathing boxes on Brighton beach form a vibrant arc of colour that curves along the sand and stretches to meet the skyline of Melbourne. It is a beautiful vista. Each of the boxes has its own character, shape and splashes of luminous paint. No two are identical.

Then there is their history. Most of the Brighton boxes and the additional 1300 beach boxes along the Mornington Peninsula date back to the 1880’s. They were originally built so that women could modestly change into swimwear and not expose their bodies on the beach.

Bathing Box Licence 1936Brighton Historical Society has records to show that there were originally more boxes in Brighton, but some were washed away or destroyed by rough weather. The Society retains a copy of a license dated 1936, granting permission to occupy a bathing box.


Family treasures 

Those who have been fortunate enough to own a bathing box over the last century, seem to view their boxes as a family treasure. They are much more than a convenient place to store beach gear – towels, umbrellas, chairs, canoes, boards. They are places to store family memories of summer holidays – carrying the baby, for the first time, from the beach box into the sea, swimming, playing cricket; eating meals and drinking wine on the sand outside the box while watching the sun set and rise over the sea.

This repository of family celebrations by the sea is handed down from one generation to the next. For example, beach box No 67, mentioned above, which is over 100 years old, had been in the same family for 50 years.

Building investment

There is also another compelling reason for the desirability of the bathing boxes. They are an outstanding investment.

If you had purchased one 30 years ago you would have paid around $12,000.  If you waited until the 1990’s to buy one, it would have cost you around $60,000. But then you could have resold it 10 years later for $214,000.  The record for a Dendy St. beach box was set in 2011 at $260,000.

Their value is the reason last October, Bayside Council approved 10 more boxes on Dendy St beach, swelling its coffers by about $1.6 million.

Most councils along the Mornington Peninsula have strict rules forbidding the building of new boxes.

The rules and regulations governing bathing boxes date back decades and are supervised by Bathing Box Associations in each council area where the boxes are located.

In Brighton there is a caveat on availability – only a bayside ratepayer can own one. Licensees are not allowed to rent or sublet their beach boxes. Nor are they allowed to sleep in or use their boxes as accommodation. There are even strict guidelines that dictate how beach boxes can be decorated.

Therefore it is surprising to see one box that displays a huge blue wave, not on an Australian beach, but on the coast of Japan, with Mount Fuji in the background. The design on bathing box No. 66 is derived from a famous Japanese artwork, Under the Wave off Kanagawa. This work by Katsushika Hokusai, is one of the best recognised works of Japanese art in the world.

Building memories

Those who do not own a beach box are still drawn to make them part of their family memories. Each year hundreds of brides in wedding gowns traipse through the sand with their bridegrooms, bridesmaids and best men in tow, to have their wedding photos taken next to the beach boxes. This is in addition to the thousands of tourists and visitors who come to photograph and be photographed next to them.

The allure of these quirky bathing boxes has made them instantly recognisable and turned them into Australian icons.

Li Na just after winning the Australian Open Trophy as Women's Singles Champion 2014

Li Na just after winning the Australian Open Trophy as Women’s Singles Champion 2014

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Photography – David Zycher

Video editor – Augustine Zycher

To see each photo separately go to our Gallery page.

Music – Albare  CD  ‘The Road Ahead’  ‘Heart to Heart’ track


100 Acres of Rhododendron Glory


One of the most glorious ways to spend a day in spring is to drive to the National Rhododendron Gardens in Olinda, just outside Melbourne.

15,000 rhododendrons bloom in brilliant colours across 100 acres of hillside. The vista is breathtaking, whichever direction you gaze. The paths meander up and down the hills and you are enveloped in a cathedral of colour as you stroll along – hot cyclamen, blushing pink, pearl white, deep purple, flame orange, buttery yellow –    each bush laden with flowers of overwhelming beauty.  The variety and gradations of colour, the sheer lusciousness, dazzle the eye.

A large variety of other plants complement the rhododendrons – rows of cherry trees with their delicate pink blossoms, banks of colourful azaleas, camellias, magnolias and daffodils. Abundant vegetation, shady trees and beautiful green lawns. It’s an ideal place to walk, to picnic on the grass, and to rest by the two lakes.

The Rhododendron Gardens are an hour’s drive from Melbourne. As you take the winding road up into the cool hills of the Dandenong Ranges, you are surrounded by soaring eucalyptus trees and dense ferns. These native Australian plants provide the backdrop for an extraordinarily successful plan to transplant and conserve  threatened rhododendron species.

Australia, with its hot climate, would seem the least suited place in the world to save rhododendrons, particularly since these flowers originated in the snowy Himalayas.

The earliest records from 1701, chronicle an Englishman going into China’s inner mountain ranges to collect and send back to England 600 dried specimens of rhododendron.

In his famed book, ‘ The Snow Leopard’, Peter Matthiessen notes the rhododendrons at 12,500 feet on his trek up the Himalayas. He marvels that the ” rhododendron leaves along the precipice are burnished silver” as they reflect the light of the glaciers.

In 1960, the members of  the Australian Rhododendron Society persuaded the then Premier of Victoria, Henry Bolte, to grant 100 acres of state land to establish gardens dedicated to rhododendrons. The members of this Society then volunteered to undertake the herculean task of clearing the land, much of it by hand, and planting  rhododendrons.

During the long hot summers, volunteers of the Women’s Auxiliary would drag heavy buckets of water up and over the hills to save the young plants.

Since then, 384 of the 1157 species of rhododendron, or one-third of the genus, are threatened according to a study. Forest loss, climate change and population growth have all had a negative impact.

The Rhododendron Gardens are now under the management of Parks Victoria, but the ARS is still actively involved. They organised a Convention in October to bring together international experts, Australian and overseas field workers, park managers and collectors to discuss the challenge of rhododendron conservation in a changing world. They also inaugurated a newly restored greenhouse, Vireya House, which is dedicated to saving the vulnerable vireya species of rhododendron.

Entry to the Gardens is free and even when the flowers are not in bloom, it is nevertheless a beautiful place to visit.

And if you have not brought a picnic, after visiting the Gardens you can enjoy the many cafes and restaurants in the pretty villages of Olinda and Sassafras.

For all pictures of the spectacular rhododendrons go to our Gallery page.

For details on opening hours, guided tours & directions go to: Parks Victoria

The Australian Rhododendron website:
Melways reference 66 K6.

Photographer: D. Zycher

Video Editor: Augustine Zycher

Music: J.S. Bach Prelude in C




Marvellous Buildings of Melbourne

We tend to forget that Melbourne is only 179 years old. Founded by colonial settlers on the traditional lands of the Kulin nation, the new city’s great good fortune came about not only  from the gold that fueled its growth, but also from the vision that drove its planners.

They built Melbourne according to a thoughtful design that created wide boulevards and verdant parks. The grand buildings that lined these boulevards were an expression of the city’s wealth, and represented the most impressive architecture of the day. “Marvellous Melbourne” as it came to be known, expanded rapidly to become by 1890, the second largest city in the British empire after London.

Within the grid laid down by the founding fathers, Melbourne’s skyline has since changed dramatically and ever more rapidly. The old heritage buildings that remain are now nestled  between skyscrapers. Victorian architecture stands side by side with a profusion of architectural styles that have been in vogue over the years – including Colonial Regency, Victorian Italianate, Art Deco, Neo-Gothic, Internationalist, Modern, and Post-Modern.

Melburnians and tourists are fascinated by this array of architecture and seize opportunities to explore the buildings in this city. One of the best opportunities is Open House Melbourne, when the month of July is dedicated to the exploration of Melbourne’s design and architecture. In one weekend event, 100 buildings are thrown open to the public. Thousands rush from building to building. Hundreds queue for hours waiting patiently for entry. Access to some buildings is restricted because they are working offices. There are even buildings restricted to only 10 people in total because they are so susceptible to damage. Hundreds of people enter ballots for a rare tour of these restricted buildings.

WomanGoingPlaces  took part in this event to bring you images of some of these buildings in our video presentation. We photographed a range of architectural styles  including the Manchester Unity building, an extraordinary example of Skyscaper Gothic built in 1932; the Windsor Hotel built in 1883, the oldest hotel in Australia; the 150 year-old Treasury building where the gold bullion found in the goldfields of Victoria was stored; the gorgeous Block Arcade of 1892; Harry Seidler’s 1988 building with its enamel mural by Arthur Boyd at No.1 Spring St. that heralded the European Modernist style in Australia; and Federation Square that recently won recognition as the 6th best square in the world.

Our access to buildings also enabled us to photograph aspects of Melbourne’s skyline of which most people are unaware and cannot observe as they hurry along the streets on their daily routine.

Even if you missed Open House this year or did not get to see as many buildings as you would have liked, you can still continue to visit many buildings. The Open House Melbourne printed program provides extended information on each building including its history, architectural features, significant stories, location and interesting facts. It is a valuable resource that has a life outside of the annual event weekend as it allows you to create your own Melbourne architectural walking tour year round. (See link below)

Marvellous Buildings of Melbourne photographer – David Zycher

Editor of video & post writer – Augustine Zycher

Music – Albare ‘No Love Lost’ from the CD  ‘The Road Ahead’

See the Gallery for the names of the buildings in the video.

For a map of where all the buildings included in Open House Melbourne are situated go to




Melbourne Now – The National Gallery of Victoria



Like an Empress Dowager, the National Gallery has reigned over art in the state of Victoria for 152 years. This bluestone building, standing like a fortress behind a moat of water, has been a revered institution but also a very conservative one. Contemporary art was rarely exhibited here.

But now, in a dramatic break with the past, the Empress Dowager has flung off her ceremonial robes and put on jeans.

This is the feeling I got at the launch of the National Gallery of Victoria’s first ever massive exhibition of contemporary art, Melbourne Now. It is an explosion of colour and creativity. It features video, sound and light installations, interactive community exhibitions and artworks, and design and architectural components.

Over 400 local artists, designers and architects have individually and collectively brought a new excitement into the galleries. They are boldly and exuberantly celebrating the contemporary cultural identity of Melbourne.

This unprecedented exhibition was initiated by Tony Ellwood, the director of the NGV. He explained that “It takes as its premise the idea that a city is significantly shaped by the artists, designers, architects, choreographers, intellectuals and community groups that live and work in its midst.”  The Melbourne Now exhibition has brought this creative energy into the NGV and the effect, he said, has been “transformative.”

As you walk amongst the more than 250 works, you are able to identify and recognize so much of what it means to live in Melbourne today. There is a Design Wall with 600 everyday items such as tram handles and water coolers; icing-coated edible living and dining rooms; a large dome constructed out of plastic Ikea bins; and many other remarkable exhibits.

That could be the reason Melbourne Now has struck such a chord with both locals and tourists.

A record number of more than 100,000 people saw the exhibition in its first 2 weeks alone.

It is the perfect place to come on your own. You can come again with a friend or a group of friends. In fact, you can probably do all three as there are many opportunities to visit repeatedly and it would be near impossible to see it all in one visit. Entry is free, however often you visit.

We’ve prepared a presentation of photos of some of the exhibits for you to see. Photography by Augustine Zycher and Rosalie Zycher.  Several photos courtesy of NGV. Post by Augustine Zycher


Melbourne Now will be open until 23rd March, 2014. Note that the Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square is closed on Mondays and NGV International on St. Kilda Road is closed on Tuesdays.


Melbourne Now is not only the first major exhibition showcasing the city’s contemporary art, it is also the biggest exhibition in the gallery’s history. Spread over its two sites, NGV International on St. Kilda Road (B in map below) and NGV Australia at the Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square (A in map below), it also spills out into street art in the city’s laneways.

WomanGoingPlaces has written about the street art in Hosier Lane ( ). The project ALLYOURWALLS associated with Melbourne Now has painted over these works to allow a new group of the finest of Melbourne’s street artists a chance to exhibit.

Further Information

Not only is there so much to see, but there are a great many public events scheduled over the next few months as part of the Melbourne Now exhibition. You can get information on the website  

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Go touring Melbourne Laneways Street Art

Melbourne has a reputation as a city with intriguing laneways. Bars, clubs, cafes, restaurants and galleries are situated in these laneways, but many of them don’t have any signage or street address and unless you know how to find them through word-of-mouth or social media, you won’t know that they are there. Finding the place is part of the fun.

Street art has added another dimension to the vibrancy of some of these hidden laneways. Melbourne has now become not only the street art capital of Australia, but also one of the most significant destinations in the world for street art. Internationally-knownstreet artists such as Banksy (England) and Swoon (USA) have come to Melbourne for the express purpose of painting in the laneways. Local artists such as Phibs, Rone, HaHa and others have built respected reputations here for their laneway work.

Collectors and auction houses are showing increasing interest and recognize street art as a contemporary art movement. And works by the artists are fetching high prices and growing in value.

Until a few years ago, these narrow alleys used to be neglected, dark and dirty places. Cobbled in bluestone, some had a decidedly 19th Century feel to them. They were the hidden face of Melbourne. They ran parallel to its beautiful wide, open boulevards and connected them discreetly.

Some laneways, like Flinders Lane which housed the factories of the rag trade for over a century, were part of the lifeblood of the city. But they weren’t the respectable, showy part of it.

No longer. Now richly imaginative and vividly coloured paintings, stencils, designs, messages and motifs have transformed many of them. The laneways are finding a new life and adding excitement to the city, drawing locals and tourists alike to enjoy their flamboyance and energy.

Some of the most colourful street art is in Hosier Lane. Join a tour or go by yourself. End your tour with some great coffee in the many cafes along the laneways.

Take a look at the slideshow of street art in Melbourne’s laneways.

Photography and editing by Augustine Zycher

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